Thursday, September 27, 2007

Welcome from the Front Lines

Welcome, fellow draftees!

That's right, I've been drafted into the military. We all knew the day would come. In 2004, John Kerry and his cronies warned us that Bush would be bringing back the draft. Shockingly, in a tasteless move that turned us sour on Bush overnight, he brought back the draft unilaterally the day after the 2004 election results were in. Since that time, 100 million men, women, and even children (the same children Republicans refused to give health care to, and who are dying in droves while Republicans laugh and bathe in their vast Scrooge McDuck-like moneypiles). Rather than ask Congress, Bush (surprise!) simply waved his magic president wand, and the draft came back. This is the same magic president wand that got our troops into Iraq in the first place, which was definitely not done by a congressional act that Hilary Clinton voted for. No. That's naive, and here at the Daily, New Skeptic, we will have none of that. Open your eyes, people!

Anyway, as I sit here in Tehran, fighting the insurgents who have every right to kill our soldiers in Iran, I wonder how it got to this point. Bush, rushing to war with Iran (definitely not proposing a wait-and-see approach, asking the United Nations to impose sanctions on Iran for going to war with us in Iraq), needed something to distract from his new Holocaust, whereby he, being Hitler, shipped off 6 million Jews to Guantanamo Bay. Fidel Castro, needless to say, was somewhat put off at having to make kosher meals for 6 million. In any event, after the Israel lobby in the United States advised Bushitler to do that (I'm having a hard time keeping my facts straight, they're just so factual!), we just had to attack Iran. After all, what if they beat us to destroying Israel? Between them and the BBC, it's a footrace to that goal! So, I'm stuck here, with no body armor, for oil. Or because Israel told us to do it. Or...because we hate Islam. I'm not terribly sure. The uninsured 6-year-old who's in command here can't read his orders and relay them to us, because (natch!) of No Child Left Behind.

So that's what it's like from the real world, where everything people say about Bush really is true. Really. Join us next time when we expose modus ponens as a conservative shill taking money from the oil companies to disprove global warming.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Pathetic Showing By Dawkins

The title is entirely appropriate. What a fool.

Let's watch, won't we?

This little poll on whose statement was better is a pretty good cause for despair, because so many people seem to vote for the inferior argument, or, arguably, for no argument.

Let's dissect this, and see who really ought to win, based on reason.

Round One:
Collins "To say 'There can be no God, and I know that's the case' falls apart on the altar of logical debate -- and really, I think, ought to be considered as its own form of blind faith."
Well, of course - that statement is entirely dogmatic, and will have to justify itself with proof suitable to the nature of it. If you state that you have absolute certainty that X exists, you have to prove it. If you state that you are certain that X does not exist, your burden is not diminished in any way.
Dawkins "The onus is on somebody who says, 'I want to believe in God,' the Flying Spaghetti Monster, fairies, or whatever it is. It is not up to us to disprove it."
Fair enough, you have no burden to disprove it. But, then, you have a burden to prove its negation. Having not met that burden, and having, instead, made some silly comments about fairies, I think we can safely say that you have abandoned your responsibility to prove the negation. You lose, Dawkins.

1-0 Collins

Round Two:
Collins "God is outside of nature, at least in part. Science is only really valid in investigating nature. So science is essentially forced to remain silent on the subject of whether God exists or not."
This is a classic distinction - that between physics and metaphysics. We all know about the laws of physics. Few know about the laws of metaphysics because this, once the queen of the sciences, has been neglected lately. I suspect it is simply too difficult for most, even college professors, to understand, and they have chosen to ignore it. It will not die, though. One set of objects - stones, light, projectiles fired out of cannons at such-and-such an angle - obeys the laws of physics. Other objects - things as such, pure matter, thoughts - obey other laws. When one tries to import the laws of one group into the relations of another group, one will see contradictions arise. Descartes tried to apply the laws of metaphysics to physics, and came to grief. Dawkins and his materialist ilk think that physics provides excellent rules for metaphysics. Both are equally daft.
Dawkins "Here we have a beautiful explanation for how life comes about... and then Francis Collins and others want to smuggle God back in and say, 'Oh, well, natural selection was God's way of doing it.' He chose the method that made him super fluous. Why bother to postulate him at all, in that case?"
Eh? I don't think Collins said anything like that. Perhaps our truncated version of the debate misses some key points. I can do nothing but take it for what it is, though, and say that Dawkins is talking nonsense here. I've read Dawkins; I've found him generally uncongenial to the idea that writing should follow a logical course and that conclusions should follow from premises. I am willing to believe that he is just being a moron here, and failing to understand the crucial distinction between physics and metaphysics.

2-0 Collins

Round Three:
Collins "God is the answer to all of those 'How must it have come to be?' questions."
Well, this is stated with a breathtaking certainty. "The answer"? I don't know. I think you need to do more work to prove that, at least.
Dawkins "What an incredible evasion of the responsibility to explain. Scientists don't do that. Scientists say, 'We're working on it.'"
Scientists do not explain what is not in their domain, if they're smart. It is perfectly rational for a scientist to say, of some phenomenon, "We don't know, can't know, and will never explain this for you. Sorry." Poor Dawkins. He had his only good opening here, and failed to deliver with a really good criticism. Oh well. I have no choice but to call this round a draw.

2.5-0.5 Collins.

If the poll numbers are anything like what they were when I last saw the page, they're overwhelmingly in favor of Dawkins, who is saying nothing that isn't rabidly, illogically atheist. Look: there have been some intelligent atheists. Dawkins may even be one, but the key way he would show this to us is by arguing intelligently from sound premises. He hasn't been doing that. He doesn't appear ready to start. It's sad that a bunch of drooling fanboys would rather approve the bare statement that appeals to their pre-existing biases than actually think about anything.

Universal education - big mistake, hasn't worked, let's scrap it. A couple thousand morons don't know enough to know that Dawkins is talking out of his anus.

Friday, September 07, 2007


Two events have occured this year which have frankly shocked me at the capacity of a repeated lie to become accepted, even by reasonably intelligent people, as the truth.

First: In Administrative Law, a class taught by the ignorant ideologue Cynthia Drew, the subject of I. Lewis Libby's trial arose (how this relates to the law of executive agencies is quite beyond my ability to understand), and an irritating little overachiever was called upon to describe the elements of the entire issue. Well, according to this student, who, you must understand, has had to have done fairly well in undergraduate study, and on a test of logic, to have even reached law school, Mr. Libby was on trial for, among other things, outing covert agent Valerie Plame. Breathtaking; not, of course, because it assumes that Ms. Plame was covert, and thus that her name could be outed, though even that is doubtful, but because it is a matter of common knowledge that a man named Richard Armitage was the one who revealed Plame's status to the media. Whatever evil intentions the Bush administration may have had against Joe Wilson and his inglorious and shabby wife, they did not extend to having Mr. Libby out Ms. Plame, as Mr. Armitage took care of that himself.

A quick and bright reader might wonder why Mr. Libby was on trial at all, if he didn't even leak the identity of someone who was only arguably a covert agent. Why indeed!

Second: In Telecommunications Law and Policy (what an awful mouthful of a name; really!), a case, the details of which would be utterly boring, involved in some way the construction of nuclear plants. Well, the company considering such construction was dissuaded from pursuing that plan as a result of, among other things, the Three Mile Island incident (I refrain from calling it a disaster). A classmate, explaining this, referred to the "explosion at Three Mile Island." Explosion. There are a number of bad things that can happen at a nuclear power plant. A meltdown. A chemical explosion. And, of course, a full-on, get-under-the-desk nuclear explosion, where the thing goes supercritical.

TMI was not an explosion of any sort.

The common source of these gross misconceptions is a sort of blindness, an acceptance of the received account without any critical eye. Many thought Scooter Libby was "the guy" who outed Valerie Plame. All of us know that something bad happened at TMI. Well, it turns out Libby wasn't the guy, and TMI, while bad, was not Hiroshima. What it takes to understand the truth of these things is not so much skepticism, as simply a confession of ignorance. Few people know what can go wrong with a nuclear power plant. Those who do not know generally prefer simply to imagine that TMI must have been a nuclear explosion, because that is the only "bad thing" that nuclear power can do, in their minds. They are entirely unaware of what really happened, and if called upon to give a true account of the accident, I am quite sure this student would be unable to give any explanation. Saying that "a bad thing" happened would be much preferable to saying "an explosion," but then, the ideal thing is for a person who knows nothing to inform himself. The second-best thing is for him simply to shut up when he is ignorant. Much worse is it to speak when knowledge fails.

So, do shut up.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Take THAT!

lacanthropy, n. The transformation, under the influence of the full moon, of a dubious psychological theory into a dubious social theory via a dubious linguistic theory.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

Identity Theft, Here We Are!

More stupid academic carelessness (dare I say negligence?) about identities:

I'm at a new place, but nothing changes...much. There is a network here for checking financial aid status, registration, one's schedule, and probably some other things I will never use. One needs a login identity and a "PIN" to log in - the ID being, essentially, the username, and the PIN being the password. Well, as is common, when you're typing in your username, it's not really a secret, so the name just shows up. When you type in the password, of course, asterisks show up so no one can look over your shoulder and get the password, or see what a saved password actually is. Makes sense.

Well, it makes sense, except, the thing is, my username is my Social Security number. The school chooses it, not me. So what the school is saying, I suppose, is that one's SSN is really not an important thing to keep private, but my PIN should be. Because with my PIN, someone could, say, register me for a class! What an outrage! But with my SSN, all someone could do is steal my identity, defraud credit card companies, and ruin my credit. That's all. No need to avoid that. What I really care about is that someone might cause the registrar five seconds of annoyance by messing up my registration. The inconvenience of having my financial life destroyed is really nothing, so yeah, let's spread that Social around!